Qigong & Tai Chi: Movement for Healing
Qigong and Tai Chi are meditative movements designed to generate health and wellness. Both forms originated in China and work to enhance our life force energy, our qi, which promotes the self-healing process. With slow, gentle, rhythmic movements, a focus on breath, and stilling the mind, we become regulated and our energy flows. This enables healing on all levels, mind, body, and soul.
There are thousands of variations of these forms that have been developed in multiple regions of China over the centuries. It is believed that qigong dates back as far as 5,000 years, while tai chi is a more recent development believed to date back 1,500 years.
Qigong and tai chi are similar in philosophy and practice. Both forms include relaxed, flowing, meditative body movements designed to help us open up and tune into nature. They help us connect with our natural environment. While performing these meditative movements, we are moving the qi from nature (earth, air, and sky) through us.
Qigong is a form of meditative movement that is somewhat freeform, and focuses on single, repetitious movements. It is a basic form and easy to learn. Qigong can be learned in a matter of weeks and can be performed standing or sitting down.
Tai chi was originally created as a martial art form, as well as meditative movement. It can be more challenging and difficult to learn because there are specific postures, and it is choreographed with body position being very important. There are a series of many, more complex moves, and it takes time to develop this skill, several months to a year. However, for the enhancement of health, these forms are often modified, reducing the movements to be learned and making them more similar to qigong. To clarify the difference between the two, tai chi classes may include qigong movements, but qigong classes would not include tai chi form.
Qigong for Medical Treatment
Qigong is also used as a medical treatment by trained medical qigong practitioners. Qigong practitioners utilize their own qi on patients to promote healing. Clinician radiated qi is considered external qigong, while internal qigong refers to personal practice as described previously in this article. Medical practice of qigong has been prevalent in China and is now being introduced to the United States. (Garripoli, 1999).
What Research has Found
In a comprehensive review of the research of health benefits of qigong and tai chi completed in 2010, 77 randomized controlled trials were included. There was consistent, substantial improvement for various health benefits. These articles contained 6,410 participants from 13 countries, exploring both physiological and psychological health issues. (Jahnke, R. et al, 2010).
These studies identified significant improvements with:
Falls & balance
Quality of life
Immune function & inflammation
Psychological (anxiety & depression)
In a more recent review of research, qigong was found to improve:
(NCCIH, NIH, 2022)
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
Balance training & fall prevention
Physical & psychological symptoms related to cancer & its treatment (qigong & tai chi)
My Qigong Experience
I have been using qigong since 2017 and love the rhythmic movements. It is self-soothing and has helped with managing stress, decreasing levels of chronic pain, improving relaxation and overall wellness. It’s a practice that helps you feel good on every level.
Initially, I could physically feel my own energy with my hands in only a few places such as the space just in front of my belly. This perception is a tingling sensation for me. I can now feel multiple meridian pathways as I pass my hands through them.
We are taught to hold space when finishing these exercises. When I hold space, my body sways back and forth and side to side as the energy outside of my body is whirling around me in the healthy manner it was intended to. I love this practice!
Both qigong and tai chi help to relax the body and the mind and reduce stress. When the body is in a relaxed state, it promotes the self-healing process. The two forms have been recognized to have similar benefits in treating health related issues, so the preference is therefore a personal choice.
Classes are fairly common, widespread, and readily available. This tried-and-true form of healing can now be seen in parks across the nation. As a culture, we have begun taking initiative in our own wellness. Good stuff.
A Form of Specialization
Walking Qigong: Treatment for Cancer
Walking Qigong originated in the early 1970’s, developed by master, Guo Lin. This was one of the first qigong styles practiced in large groups across China, and to be scientifically researched with validating results. Walking Qigong quickly became known for its vast benefits in the treatment of cancer, AIDS, as well as other critical illnesses.
Master Gou Lin was born in 1909, and at the age of 8, began training with her Taoist monk grandfather in the healing art of qigong. She went on to study with other masters before enduring the trials of World War II. The challenges she suffered through during that time took their toll on her wellbeing and she was diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1949.
Struggling to heal herself from the disease, and with a life sentence of six months, Guo Lin turned to qigong, studying and adding modifications to the practice. This included a breathing technique that would normally be harmful due to the amount of oxygen inhaled. However, the excess oxygen, as it is known, stumps cancer cells therefore benefitting those diagnosed with the disease. The results from this reformed practice were remarkable and the style flourished.
Guo Lin passed in 1984, 35 years following her terminally ill diagnosis. She died of natural causes. Her story, and the New Qigong as she called it, are legendary. There are classes and treatment centers found across China to this day.
This style of qigong has helped many since its implementation, slowing down the progression of disease, and often healing people altogether. Although Walking Qigong is prevalent in China, it regrettably has not become well known in the states as of yet. For more information on the practice, take a look at the following link: The Anti-Cancer Walk: An Introduction to Guo Lin New Qigong Therapy • CHINESE MEDICINE LIVING
Garripoli, G. (Director). (1999). Qigong, ancient Chinese healing for the 21st century. [Documentary] Gaia Television.
Jahnke, R. et al. (2010). A Comprehensive Review of Health Benefits of Qigong and Tai Chi. American Journal of Health Promotion. National Library of Medicine.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, National Institutes of Health. (2022). Qigong: What You Need to Know.